2 Timothy 2:8-13
8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
August 23, 1992 – it’s name was Andrew. August 29, 2005 – it was Katrina. October 22, 2012 – Sandy. And now October 7, 2016 – it’s Matthew. Hurricanes are hard to handle. Can you even imagine the devestation? It’s challenging to picture it. It’s hard to think about what it would be like to evacuate your home not knowing if it will be there when you get back. It’s hard to watch those interviews with people who are sifting through huge piles of debris and rubble, that used to be their home. It’s hard to see the stunned faces of people who litterally don’t know what to do. These kinds of images burn themselves into our memories. When another one comes along –and it will – the images and thoughts all come flooding back into our memories. That’s what it’s like this week. We remember the Andrews, Katrinas and Sandys. We pray for the people in Haiti, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. We pray for those who have lost their homes and for the families of those who lost their lives. We pray and we’ll always remember.
It’s not just the hurricanes; we remember days where it wasn’t the groaning of nature that brought disaster but it was the depraved mind of man. December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor. November 22, 1963 – Assassination of JFK. April 19, 1995 – Oklahoma City bombing. April 20, 1999 – Columbine. September 11, 2001 – 9/11 Terrorist attacks.
And there’s more memories, aren’t there? The personal ones like the only D you’ve ever had on a report card. That time when the wind was knocked out of you or you ran full speed into a tree. That time you pulled a three inch screw out of your leg after you were tackled on the pavement in what should have been two-hand touch. Ok, maybe some of those are just me. How about the time your friend or family member had a severe diagnosis from the doctor. Was there a time when you had to go through the couch cushions and all the nooks and cranies to try and make the payments? Do remember your first heartbreak? How about the a death of a close loved one?
Your memories are full of this kind of thing. These memories can come from anywhere at any time. And they take up so much room in our heads and hearts. How can anyone cope with it all? How can anyone have hope when literal and figurative hurricanes are ripping apart lives, when this groaning world brings destruction, when people cause unmentionable crimes?
You know, Paul encourages us today to endure, but with a head full of all those bad memories how is that possible? Bad memories don’t really help with enduring through the struggles and hardships. In fact, they make it harder. Bad memories cause anxiousness and fear. Don’t bad memories make you want to avoid those kinds of things? And that doesn’t help with enduring. The opposite happens.
But good memories are no better. Can a birthday, an anniversary, or family reunion really help you endure? The birth of your children? A great trip? A pay raise? A championship for your favorite team? Can these kinds of good memories really give you the courage and strength to put up with the problems and pain that come up? I don’t know if that’s how it works. NDSU wins a 6th championship in a row and that’s somehow going to take care of the destroyed homes and lives from hurricanes, tornados, or terrorism? A great relaxing and luxurious vacation to Hawaii is supposed to take the sting out of all these mass shootings? Those twenty pounds you lost a year ago can make family feuding go away? Sure, good memories fill us up with joy and thankfulness now, but one dangerous thing can happen from all these good memories you have. You want more! And when life becomes a pursuit of more great moments, that kind of temporal life can never satisfy. You can’t endure.
The problem when the focus is on us, our good or our bad memories, is that a sinner is taking center stage. My memories, even the good ones, are not of a perfect life and neither are yours. We are tainted by a past filled with accidents, mistakes, and poor choices. We have disowned the Lord too many times to count. We cannot remember even one perfect day. And if you can’t remember one, does it make any sense at all that there will be perfect days ahead of us? Imperfect people cannot create a perfect future. That kind of realization isn’t helping anyone. It makes real endurance through all of the difficulties a phantom we will never find.
We need a different kind of memory. We need the kind of memory that drives away doubts and despair and gives joy and hope. We need the kind of memory that puts vim and vigor into our hearts and steps. We need the kind of memory that will help us face the challenges of each day head on with determination. We need the kind of memory that causes contentment no matter what the circumstances. You’re probably interested in that kind of memory.
So was Paul. He’s writing these words to Timothy while “suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” And yet Paul is peaceful. He’s content. He’s enduring everything. One might ask, “How, Paul, how do you do it? How do you act as if everything is fine when you are locked up for simply preaching and teaching? Paul, give me the secret so that I can face my haunting memories. Paul, give me the hope for a bright and lasting future.”
And do you know what he says? “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…” Of all the things that you could remember, of all the things that you might remember, of all the memories that fill you brain, of all the things that try to crowd your memory so that you forget what really matters, none of them can compare to Jesus Christ. You have got to remember Jesus Christ. The bad memories you have won’t help you get rid of your sin. The good memories you have won’t pay the debt we owe to God. Remember Jesus.
He’s the one who has a perfect past and a perfect future. His past encapsulates God’s promise to save you and me. Every single word that God gave in the Old Testament is funneled into one man, the King of kings, the Promised One who would save his people from the oppression of sin, the Messiah who would rescue us from all our enemies and give us a kingdom with him. And his future is endless because he is the one who rose from the dead. He conquered death and hell for us. He assures us that there is life forever in heaven. He has a place ready for you because he is the living enduring Savior from this world of sinful memories. He has replaced our pursuits of good memories and our tireless efforts to make up for the bad with his perfect life now given to us through faith. You and I don’t need to hang on to anything we have done, because we have the memory of Jesus Christ.
This is the good news that lives and dwells in our hearts by the power of the Spirit. It is my gospel. It’s not just the message that Jesus has. It’s not just the good news that apostles and evangelists have. It’s not just the testimony of those who have gone before us. It’s not only for the preachers and teachers who serve in our churches and schools. This gospel is mine. And it is yours. God has personally delivered it to you and unwrapped it in all of it’s goodness. It is your message to hold now and til the day God calls you to be with him. Nothing can change this gospel for you. It is your sole source of salvation, because your gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. It is the memory that he has taken away your sins and raised you to a new life of faith in him.
If you want to endure in this life, if you want to make it through any and every situation, you have what you need in the memory of Jesus Christ. You can look back on a life of a sheep who loved to wander, and you don’t have to worry about what God will do. You don’t have worry about what happens to wayward sheep, because Jesus has forgiven your sins. He has found you when you were lost and brought you into his fold. You can look at the future with bold confidence, not fixated on temporal pleasures and goals because you know those mean nothing in comparison to the home Christ has won for you. You can look at your life right now, and it doesn’t have to be a mess of trying to avoid more bad memories with synical fingers that are always pointing to other people as the problem in the world. Rather, you can enjoy the gifts and talents God gives you. You can live in joyful thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done. You can remember Jesus. Endurance can only come from remembering him.
Paul knew a thing or two about enduring hardship. Having been harassed like he was on the top 10 most wanted for much of his ministry, he kept going with endurance that can only come from Christ. So he passes that on to Timothy and to you and me these words that must have been old lyrics to a hymn. (There’s a reason why we sing so many songs about Jesus in church and have our kids memorize them.) Paul tells us it’s a trustworthy saying, it’s a faithful word for our lives as we remember Jesus. If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Keep singing that song. Keep that in your heart and mind. Never let it go. And see, that’s how to take care of a church. Remember Jesus. That’s our gospel. That’s our endurance. Amen.